The Vietnam visitor experience: Part Two…

 —  02/10/2009

Round two on the Vietnamese visitor experience trail was a two day trip to Cuc Phuong National Park. Established in 1962 as Vietnam’s first national park (Ho Chi Minh even took time out from the war to formally open it), it is one of the country’s top nature-based tourist attractions. We organised a tour through Handspan Adventure Travel which included return transport from Hanoi to the park and back, meals, accommodation and a guide for our four hour trek.

As well as being a biodiversity hotspot that houses almost 100 different mammal species, over 300 bird species and 2000 species of plants, the park also includes the Cuc Phuong Endangered Primate Rescue Center. This centre helps to breed and rehabilitate some of Vietnam’s rarest primates including the Golden-headed Langur and the Black Crested Gibbon. 

Cuc Phuong Endangered Primate Rescue Center

Cuc Phuong Endangered Primate Rescue Center

We spent an hour or so strolling around the primate centre, where a park warden described all the species we saw and also the importance of a centre like this in a country where poaching of rare animals for the illegal wildlife trade is all too common.

Then we threw some boots on, layered on the mozzie repellant and entered into the park with our guide. In places the forest reminded me of the New Zealand bush (although much, much hotter…), very dense and thick, with mosses and lichens covering almost every tree trunk. Some of the signage was great, as it seemed to be designed in way that meant non-Vietnamese speakers could still understand the point that was trying to be made.

Visitor information at the park entrance

Visitor information at the park entrance

2-1=0, a pretty good way of explaining the damage poaching does...

2-1=0, a pretty good way of explaining the damage poaching does...

The walk was gentle and the track well formed, and just over 3 hours later we were back at our starting point after seeing geckos, chameleons, forest squirrels, huge dragonflies, a 1000-year old tree, probably one of the biggest spiders I’ve ever seen (the size of a dinner plate I kid you not!), and of course being thoroughly wow-ed by our second national park of the trip.

The main difference between here and Cat Ba National Park was most definitely having a guide, we learnt so much more and just generally felt a little safer while in the park. For us, organising trips through travel agencies was the way to go in this part of the world, as the money we might have saved organsing everything ourselves didn’t make up for the hassle and stress of sorting out everything from transport, accommodation, food, park entrance fees and all those other hidden costs… plus it meant knowing all that administrative kind of stuff was all taken care of, we could really immerse ourselves in the places we visited, and take in so much more.

Well that was park number two, and unfortunately our travel plans changed and we ran out of time to get the third park we were hoping to visit. Next time I’ll post about our two day tour of the spectacular Temples of Angkor in Cambodia, which was a whole different visitor experience entirely…

A nice sign to end on :)

2 responses to The Vietnam visitor experience: Part Two…


    Hi Jo,

    It was indeed an amazing trip, although somewhat depressingly it now feels like far longer than only a month ago…

    No sign of the Colonel, although there was one elderly gentlemen who let us wash our feet in his freshwater well at the end of the track. He made it blatantly clear this facility required ‘no money, no money’, but unashamedly gestured to his wife selling cans of Coke about 10 meters away. Needless to say 3 cans were bought in the exchange for clean feet.

    Will get around to posting our Angkor experience shortly…



    Good reading Nick that bought back some memories for me. I travelled with Intrepid to Catba Island and the National Park. Is the Colonel still collecting coins, photos and e-mail addresses at the nearby hospital cave?
    Cuc Phuong was a couple of years later and I was with Aurora travel on a 4 day mission in the countryside around Hanoi. I agree that independent travel in this area isn’t worth the hassle. 4 days with a guide and a driver with all accommodation, most food & arrangements etc cost around $250 – a bargain in my opinion.
    Look forward to seeing your impressions of the temples – a place I intend to revisit with more time to explore.